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At the meeting with the Latvian and Lithuanian Speakers in Riga today, President of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Jüri Ratas underlined the importance of the cooperation between the Baltic States in all fields of life.

“The world today is not as we used to know it a year ago,” Ratas said. “We are still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic implications. There are many unresolved conflicts escalating in our neighbourhood, and some problems have already reached our borders.”

Ratas emphasised that difficult times should not pull us apart, but they should bring us closer to each other. “A real bond is forged in times of hardships and trials. I believe that together we will be able to find the best solutions,” Ratas told his Baltic counterparts. “Times like this call for a united stand, commitment and joint efforts.”

Ratas recalled that the pandemic had demonstrated the need to cooperate constantly and to coordinate decisions even more actively than before. He remarked that the “Baltic bubble” was a good example of the flexibility of travel regulations and a valuable lesson for the future.

The President of the Riigikogu admitted that the importance of boarder guard cooperation was increasing. “The refugee situation in Lithuania demonstrates to Latvia and Estonia the need to be actively vigilant,” Ratas noted. “Let us show that solidarity with Lithuania is practical – Estonia has decided to contribute to managing the Lithuanian refugee crisis with two teams and technical support through the Frontex.”

Ratas said that the security issues had always been one of the top items on the Baltic cooperation agenda, and it would have to be so in the future as well. “Keeping up the level of defence expenses, the trans-Atlantic cooperation and the enhanced forward presence of the allies in the region are vital for all of us.”

Ratas believes that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have to show unity in their messages and have to also convince the other member states of the European Union that the sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime will need to remain in place until the situation normalizes in Belarus. The aim is that all political prisoners be released immediately and violence against protesters be stopped at once. “The Eastern Partnership countries need our full support both bilaterally and in multilateral cooperation,” Ratas underlined, and added that support could also be practical, for example, the Eastern Partnership had the need for additional vaccines.

Ratas thinks that the mutual cooperation between the Baltic parliaments is functioning excellently within the framework of the Baltic Assembly, which at present is presided by Lithuania and which also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. He expressed hope that, although the pandemic restrictions had disturbed the normal work of committees, they would all be able to participate in the session to be held in Vilnius this November.

Photos of the meeting (Erik Peinar, Riigikogu)

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
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